I've written about this subject on a number of occasions, but it seems to be on my mind more and more lately, in the context of the practice of the presence of God.
The presence of God is joyful, but it isn't joyful in the outward sense that we usually understand the word. And it is equally sorrowful, perhaps, even, dominated by this quality — which turns out to be an aspect of joy. Real Joy, you see, is a sensation of truth— not an emotion that makes one feel good. Because of this equivalency, putting it in Buddhist terms, Joy is equal to an understanding of the Dharma.
To sense the truth organically is to feel rightly; and to feel rightly is more satisfying than anything one might call feeling good. Good feeling, as we experience it in ordinary life, has nothing to do with right feeling, and it is easy to demonstrate this.
For example, there are those who derive good feelings from horrible actions. There are those who take delight in sadism, masochism, murder, and so on. So we can see that these feelings, ordinary ones of feeling good, have very little to do with any Divine Feeling, except in the abstract, insofar as they represent polarized negatives that are the opposite of true Feeling. Such polarized negatives are necessary; and the esoteric reasons for that are complicated. The simplest way of explaining this is that we cannot know right Feeling if no wrong feeling arises; and the more fit and sophisticated philosophical schools understand this quite well.
But I want today to talk more about the exact nature of joy and sorrow as they emanate from the presence of God.
Joy and sorrow are both deep aspects of Love. I use the word deep aspects, because Love has many superficial manifestations, and many aspects that do not grow directly down into the roots of Being, which are connected to the roots of material reality itself. Material Reality, as I explained in my book on Chakras and the Enneagram— and as was amply explained, at much greater length, by Swedenborg and Ibn Arabi — is created of Divine Love, which separates it self into an infinite number of manifestations, some of which are connected to overarching or higher principles and arisings. These higher principles and arisings are motive forces within the universe, conceptual forces, and joy and sorrow are part of those root conceptual forces. They lie so close to Love because they form the base of the triangle, the Trinity, that Love initially creates. When one conceives of them this way, one sees that they are directly connected, forming a single and whole line, that is, a single entity — just as love and sorrow create a single entity, and love and joy create a single entity.
If you wish to study this from the point of view of Gurdjieff's enneagram, I encourage it. Placing Love at the apex of the triangle, Joy in the position of the number 3, and Sorrow at the position of number six, you may sense a number of very important inferences which I will not go into in this essay. The point is that Joy and Sorrow are most intimately connected, and the presence of God, if properly sensed and felt, will inevitably produce both Joy and Sorrow, blended into a single unit, in which Sorrow — which is now fully Joyful, having acquired all of the characteristics of Joy in its completed union with it — predominates. It predominates because Sorrow, which is related to intentional suffering and a necessary element in right experience of the world, vibrates at a higher rate than Joy—again, demonstrated simply by iterating the question on the enneagram, which assigns the two qualities their lawfully hierarchical rates of vibration.
Because these hierarchical models of the two entities are nonetheless insufficient, it's tempting to believe that Sorrow is superior to Joy, whereas really, what we need to understand is that it merely plays a different role. Airisng from Love, both are both absolutely consequent, and absolutely necessary.
Love cannot complete the action of the Holy Trinity without Joy and Sorrow; they are essential partners in its action. Another way of understanding it is that Joy and Sorrow are the agencies of Love, as manifest within the level of material reality.
The questions of human happiness and its relationship to ordinary life are almost beside the point relative to the experience of real Feeling. If one acquires real Feeling, one will find happiness; but it is not happiness of a kind that one finds through love, sex, money, food, or any of the ordinary stimulations that we expect might produce happiness. It goes much deeper; it is in the marrow of the bones, and cannot be excised, nor affected by these outer material things. Joy, in other words, is of the soul, the inner man; and happiness is of the outer man. This inner quality is so determinant of outer nature and circumstance that even if all the material trappings presumed to be "generating" his happiness were taken away from a man, he might still appear to be quite happy from the point of view of those around him, as long as his connection to Joy (which, let us not forget, is actually sorrowful) was not damaged.
One of the aims of esoteric work is to form this inner capacity of feeling the presence of God through the action of joyful Sorrow and sorrowful Joy, until one sees that the two are perfectly blended into a whole — a lawful action consequent to the pursuit of both conscious forces in man: conscious labor and intentional suffering. Conscious labor, itself, actually represents Joy — that is, a man should derive an indestructible inner satisfaction from his honest labor — and intentional suffering represents Sorrow — that is, a man derives an indestructible inner truth from the experience of how he is in an inward sense.
Because the formation of these material substances can only arise from what Gurdjieff called the "coating of higher Being- Bodies" in man, that is, the material acquisition of the substances necessary to sense higher levels of vibration, there can be no substitute for effort, experience, and humility in regard becoming open to the presence of God. But this openness is absolutely possible; and because it is immeasurable, it will never be quantified or qualified by the sciences, or by instruments. The material is functionally incapable of measuring the spiritual; and no real,that is, conscious, measurement of the material can arise from anything but the spirit.
Every other measurement is a false measurement; and we live in the great age of false measurements.
May your soul be filled with light.